What a sacred thing it is to say I am surrounded by women who inspire me.

My grandmother, 92 years young with a lifetime of soulful wisdom to impart. My mother, a quiet and selfless hero who has walked a hard path but is using her scars to uplift others. Not to mention my girlfriends: the single ones full of zeal and ambition; the married ones striving to keep the romance alive after fifteen years of faithful matrimony; and the mothers tirelessly battling the strong wills of their toddlers. The middle-aged colleague who made the daring decision to leave her secure job of twelve years to pursue her dormant dreams. The close friend with majestic waist-length hair who shaved off every inch to raise money for her young nephew who is fighting a war with Leukemia, and the other who has been silently overcoming hurdle after hurdle as she lives and parents under the weight of a debilitating incurable disease. The Pastors wife who saw my struggles and has taken me under her wing. The mother of four from my hometown whose approach to parenting never fails to challenge me to be more present and intentional with my own three children. My dear sister of heart who frequently sells items from her own modest home to bless those who have even less, and not to forget Monica, the fuel station attendant whose beautiful daughter suddenly died of cancer six months ago, leaving her to raise her grandchildren in a township community while working gruelling twelve-hour shifts.

These women span different generations, cultures, countries and communities, but they are bound by a common thread – their trust in God to give them all they need and their outward love of others in response.

The women in my world

To my grandmother, who was born into the Great Depression, raised during the Second World War, and endured the loss of her beloved husband long before his time – God has granted her profound wisdom and endurance. “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” – Galatians 6:9 (NIV).

To my mother, forced to work long days and forgo all luxuries to cover the debts of her wayward husband, wounded by his bitter words and adultery, yet faithful and sacrificial in nursing him in his dying days – Christ has gifted her strength and immeasurable compassion. “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” – Isaiah 41:10 (NIV).

To my precious friend, an emergency nurse who works to restore life to those who have attempted suicide, burdened by the knowledge that her own teenage family member felt so deeply disappointed by life that he ended his – Jesus gives her courage and conviction. She is the very one who valiantly shaved her golden locks in support of her nephew and is a rare beauty inside and out. “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of … the Lord is finished” – 1 Chronicles 28:20 (NIV).

To the other, so generous with her limited time and money, so mightily in love with her husband and children, working and caring daily for others despite the degenerative disease that makes it painfully hard for her to see, talk and breathe – God gives her peace and assurance that He is indeed in control. “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” – John 16:33 (NIV).

To Monica, whose bright light cancer has tried to extinguish, so saddened by her loss and inability to pay her grandchildren’s school fees – Jesus bestows on her hope and comfort, using strangers to bless her with prayer and gifts. “Cast all your anxiety on him because He cares for you” – 1 Peter 5:7 (NIV).

The source of their strength

Through these women, and many more, I see the full, multifaceted reflection of Jesus Christ. I see His love, mercy, kindness, humility, parental heart and promises fulfilled. In both the small often overlooked details of their lives, and in their unmistakable trials and triumphs, I see Him. I see Him in their steadfast perseverance, in their refusal to give up despite their own circumstances and inadequacies. In the way they care far more about people, than they do about position or profit, I see Him there. I see Him in the tears they shed for others and I hear His voice in the prayers they cry out loud.

He lives in them and works through them, inspiring me every day to stand up, push on and be the change I want to see in my world.

Will you stop today, look left and right at the women around you, and admire them. Don’t compare them to one another or to yourself. Don’t look for their faults or failings in order to make them seem less and you feel more because that is something the fallen human heart will do naturally. But rather look with fresh eyes, just observe them without pretence or prejudice, and you’ll see His face.

Then will you turn to a mirror, look at your own reflection, smile wildly and don’t ever doubt it – Christ wants to shine through you too.

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